The older you get, the more you realise the emotional sadness and sense of longing for the past. You start appreciating all the summers you spent in your grandparents’ countryside, running around carefree, worrying only about making it on time to watch your favourite TV show. This podcast-based class should make your B2 adult student look back at their past through rose-coloured glasses and reminisce about their childhood.
Recently I’ve noticed a pattern all over my social media pages – the millennial nostalgia. The content creators hit the right spot, reflecting on our sense of style and songs we loved listening to as children. We poke fun at the use of iPods and the extensive use of photobooth on iMacs. We think about different food and drinks that we used to enjoy and which don’t exist anymore. I got so into it that I started scrolling through the #millenialnostlagia, laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
Of course, since we all come from different backgrounds, our nostalgia triggers are unique. However, no matter our past, we can all agree on the origins of nostalgia: the smell, the taste, sounds (music), films and TV shows, and certain emotions that assisted us during that time. Since it’s such a feel-good topic, I believe it may spark some interesting discussion about specific things that remind us of the better times.
This lesson is based on the podcast by Science Friday titled The Healing Power of Nostalgia, which can be assigned as a pre-lesson listening task or can be listened to in class. Since the topic is quite specific, it is targeted at adult students who may have some experience with nostalgia. You can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and the answers at the end of the post.
Start the class by thinking about different things that make us nostalgic. If you have a bigger group, you can ask students to write down three things that make them feel this way on sticky notes, and put them on the whiteboard under different categories. If you have smaller groups or 1:1, you can show the categories and elicit things that make students nostalgic in each area. Ask individual students to share their stories with the rest of the group.
Depending on the amount of time available, you can do this activity in two different ways. You can send the podcast (available on SoundCloud) and ask the students to listen to it before the class, or you can do it in the form of a guided listening. If you choose to do the latter, focus their attention on Exercise B and ask them to read the question and three available options. At this point, do not explain any words yet. Play the recording (-17:26 – -16:08) and check the answers to the question about what makes the host nostalgic. This should introduce some new podcast-related vocabulary (e.g. a host). Check the diagram from the lead-in and compare your nostalgia triggers with the ones mentioned before.
Continue by dividing students into pairs or small groups, and discussing the benefits of nostalgia. Ask to think of the best way to define this word. Listen to the next part of the recording (-16:08 – -14:06) and check the answers to the questions. The benefit of nostalgia mentioned in the podcast was an emotionally protective force in times of crisis. Do the students agree with this statement, or can they come up with other more appropriate or relatable advantages of nostalgia?
Proceed with some individual work. Students read two questions regarding feelings associated with nostalgia and the reason people used to associate nostalgia with negativity. Continue by listening to (-14:06 – -12:05), then check and discuss the answers.
Put students again into the same pairs or groups as before and ask them to talk about different ways in which we can induce nostalgia. Listen to the next part of the recording (-12:05 – -10:47) and compare your suggestions with the ones mentioned in the podcast, e.g. listening to music, consuming media that reconnects us to the past, journaling and scrapbooking. As a group, collect some ideas and check how students like to induce nostalgia and when they tend to do that. Discuss if anyone has ever tried or would try scrapbooking in the future.
Continue with individual work. Students read two questions about different ways of processing nostalgia and the negative effects it may have on people who tend to be standoffish in their relationships. Students predict the correct answers and listen to the recording (-10:47 – -8:11) to check the answers. Finish this part by discussing whether they agree with what was said in the recording.
Once again, ask the students to work in pairs and think of the differences between personal and group nostalgia. Listen to the recording (-8:11 – -6:31) and check the answers (personal nostalgia is unique to each person, while group nostalgia depends on generations, people living in the same area, etc.) Discuss different examples of group nostalgia in their countries. I know that for me, a millennial from Poland, a big part of group nostalgia is listening to music channels (Viva!) and drinking the artificially sweet beverage Frugo (sadly, discontinued and then brought back to be terminated again).
The next part of the listening involves talking about different parts of the brain that are included in the process of nostalgia. The second part of the task checks their knowledge of vocabulary. Students need to find the word that best describes the feeling of nostalgia. In the podcast, this word is gratitude, which needs to be matched with its synonym (homesickness, appreciativeness or greatness). Listen to the recording (-6:31 – -4:08) and check the answers.
Since we are on the topic of brain activities, students work in small groups again and discuss the accuracy of their memories. Listen to the recording (-4:08 – -2:57) and report on what was said about the way we tend to remember things (it’s a memory of a memory). Finish this part by discussing if the students are maybe unsure of some of their memories and whether they remember some things from stories or pictures and not from living those experiences.
The podcast finishes with a short comparison of our nostalgia and memories to movie making and editing. Play the recording until the end (-2:57 – 0:00) and check the answers. Finish by writing a quote, ‘People can be very nostalgic about difficult times in their lives’ and discuss whether they agree with it or not. If the topic isn’t too sensitive, students may share their personal stories and how they look back at them through rose-coloured glasses.
Since the lesson is for older students, ask them to use their phones to search for things that induce group nostalgia in their countries, e.g. the sound of dial-up Internet, specific food and drink products, etc. Present them to the rest of the group and discuss how these things make them feel and what they make them think of. Below you can find some of the things that certainly make me feel quite nostalgic.
Click the link to access the PDF directly from Canva (+ edit it if needed!) or click the link below to access the ready-made PDF with the teacher’s notes and the answers at the end of the file!
What induces your nostalgia? Do you know some of the things from my picture above? What would you add to the nostalgia list?
Disclaimer: All the time stamps of the podcast are measured backwards. You can play this podcast directly from the website and check the time above!